Its been almost 4 months since my dad has died and somehow it feels like a day and a lifetime simultaneously. I sound like a broken record when I say that, but it is still not real to me. I still can't process it. I still find myself unable to think about it or else everything gets blurry. When will it ever start to feel real? When do I stop feeling nothing?
I have a friend in France named Elsa. She has kept me grounded through this experience. She also lost her father. She sends me long, thoughtful messages that I take too long to reply to. In one of them, she told me I should consider drawing my dad because it helped her a lot. She would spend several hours just focusing on the details. She said she thought it would help in dealing with intense moments of sadness. I thought it was a great idea, but couldn't bring myself to be creative.
Over the past couple weeks, I have been working at this drawing. Very slowly, I have been focusing on the details and scrutinizing every shape and shadow in my dad's face. Last night, I finished it. I haven't felt such a sense of pride in a very long time. I stared at his face and it felt alive. I wanted to show him the completed portrait to hear him tell me how proud of me he was. I wanted to know what kind of comment he would leave on it when he saw it posted on my blog, but then the harsh, cold reality hit me that he is gone. The realization hits me like an icy wave that takes my breath away and then I am stuck holding a book and staring at a face that I will no longer see again.
Elsa sent me another message and said: the life around you seems to keep going on the same way it used to, but for you it's so utterly different, so you sort of expect the world to be different too, but it isn't. People keep going to work, they still grocery shop, they drive cars; the same TV programs my father used to love are still on TV. It's like the world ended to you, so you expect other things to end, but it just goes on and will continue to do so. It's like the world has absolutely no consideration for the sadness it has caused you, and you are helpless.
My mom called me last weekend and told me she read a bunch of my blog entries and she was laughing. She told me I should get back into writing and drawing again. I did a painting of Jim Leyland in college that my dad loved that I never documented. She said I should repaint him again. This is me taking small steps in that direction.
With Matt Benyo's help with the watercolor background, I created this as a tribute to my dad and his love for the Tigers. It's no Jim Leyland, Mom, but I think it will mean a little more because it's Charles.
So, tonight I am thinking about my dad and his crooked nose and uneven teeth. I am thinking about how he loved a good, well done steak. I am thinking about him whenever I walk past the Donut Shop coffee K cups in the grocery store. I think of him when I walk past the peanuts because he loved them. He is intrinsically linked to so much of my everyday life that there's not a moment he isn't on my mind, but that isn't a bad thing. The best way to keep someone alive is to remember them.
Love and miss you always, Dad. Please, click to enlarge the image below to see it in its full glory.